Chris Mahove -Acting Editor
Workers in Zimbabwe have nothing to celebrate on May Day as they are subjected to poor working conditions and ‘slave wages’ which have thrown them into abject poverty, workers’ federations in the country have said.
The unions blamed what they termed neo-liberal austerity measures being implemented by government for their suffering.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) Secretary General Kennias Rusununguko Shamuyarira said austerity measures had never worked anywhere in the world, particularly in Africa and there was no way they could perform miracles in Zimbabwe.
He said workers were this year only celebrating the gift of life as their wages had been eroded, adding the three tier pricing system and dollarization vis-à-vis RTGS and bond notes wages had put prices of goods and services beyond their reach.
Shamuyarira said government should revert to the founding principles of the liberation struggle, which he said was waged on the basis of ensuring that workers and peasants were freed from the bondage of slavery by the white settler regime.
The ZFTU boss said incidences of workers working for up to four months without pay, were a form of chibharo which had been modernized, adding it was now time for the working class demand their space and confront those that were inflicting hardships to the workers of Zimbabwe.
It was for that reason, he said, that they had coined this year’s theme ‘Working Class Confronting Excessive Exploitation by the Elite Monopolies and Cartels’.
“You will find out that workers are in dire, abject poverty; they can’t make ends meet and the genesis of all these hardships being faced by workers and the generality of our citizenry is as a result of these neo-liberal austerity measures that are being put in place by government through the Minister of Finance, Professor Mthuli Ncube,” he said.
He said Africans needed to understand that the same capitalists, liberals and monopolies that were prescribing these measures were the very same people who had colonized the continent and built their First World countries using Africa’s mineral resources which they looted, leaving the continent un-developed.
“And now a whole Minister comes all the way with IMF policies, World Bank policies which are never tested in an underdeveloped country that has been looted by the exploiters. Hence you see now what has happened. These austerity measures, as far as we have witnessed and experienced have brought about nothing besides devaluing our currency and bringing in high inflation,” he said.
Shamuyarira said some of the policies being implemented had helped create ‘a monopoly of cartels’ who were now benefitting and leveraging through exploiting and fleecing disadvantaged workers and the entire citizenry because they had access to the USD.
This, he said, had left workers exposed as they could not access the USD which was being sold at a rate twice that of the official rate by the cartels who he said were monopolizing everything in the country.
“So these things don’t work because they have actually taken us back to feudal stages if I may say. We used to have our own settler colonized Zimbabwean dollar but it has been wiped out. We no longer have our own currency we have these three tier currencies. What country do you expect to develop under such circumstances?
“Where you don’t have your own currency, where you rely on borrowing from other people; the rands, the USD and RTGS those are paperless monies and you see it will be always equated on the parallel market or official bank rate. They can never match the value content of the USD because these paperless monies are not valued on production or objects. These are just speculative currencies to make things move yet the real money between you and me we know its USD, it’s the Rand, we all know that,” he said.
He added that most policies would never profit or give any leverage to the workers, their children, adding they had instead, led to the breakdown of the country’s moral systems due to endemic poverty.
‘Domination of these cartels has collapsed all our moral social fabric as a people. We are witnessing the collapse of the middle class and small business `enterprises which used to employ the majority of our people since the economy now is 80-90 percent informal,” he said adding that the country needed to work towards formalizing the informal economy.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary General, Japhet Moyo said the situation for workers was dire and precarious, adding the union was now fighting to restore the workers’ dignity by demanding better working conditions, employment opportunities, living wages and salaries, social security as well as health and safety.
“The demand for a meaningful wage in a stable currency (USD) remains on the table as well as a wage linked to a poverty datum. It is a chorus that we will not get tired of until we receive what can sustain our families. We will continue to push until we achieve it,” he said.
The ZCTU’s theme for this year’s commemorations is “Restoration of Workers’ Dignity”